Roger Lowell Putnam

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Roger Lowell Putnam

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: November 24, 1972 (78)
Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Lowell Putnam, II and Elizabeth Lawrence Putnam
Husband of Caroline Piatt Putnam
Father of William Lowell Putnam, III and Roger Lowell Putnam, Jr.
Brother of George Lowell Putnam; Katherine Lawrence Bundy; Harriet Lowell Putnam and Augustus Lowell Putnam

Managed by: Jeffrey Edwards Cohen
Last Updated:

About Roger Lowell Putnam

Roger Lowell Putnam (December 19, 1893 – November 24, 1972) was an American politician and businessman. A member of the prominent Lowell family of Boston, he served as Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1937 until 1943, and as director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 until 1952. During his short tenure in federal office, the nation's steelworkers struck—leading President Harry S. Truman to seize the nation's steel mills.

For 40 years, Putnam was also the sole trustee of the Lowell Observatory. During that time, he purchased three new telescopes for the observatory and was instrumental in pushing Lowell astronomers to search for Percival Lowell's theoretical "Planet X"—which led to the discovery of Pluto in 1930.

He was the son of William Lowell Putnam II, a notable and wealthy Boston lawyer. The Putnams were members of the Boston Brahmins—a group of families which claimed descent from the founders of Boston. On his mother's side, Percival Lowell (the noted astronomer) and Abbott Lawrence Lowell (president of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933) were his uncles and the cigar-smoking poet Amy Lowell his aunt.

Roger Putnam graduated from the Noble and Greenough School in Boston, and then attended Harvard University. He became acquainted with Leverett Saltonstall while at Harvard, joined the Hasty Pudding Club and the Fly Club, and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics in 1915.

He entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1916 and undertook graduate studies in mechanical engineering. After the United States entered World War I in 1917, he enlisted in the Navy. He served on the U.S.S. Mississippi and was promoted to lieutenant.

After leaving military service, Putnam married the former Caroline Jenkins on October 9, 1919. The couple had six children: Caroline, Roger Jr., William, Anna, Mary, and Michael.

Putnam took a job working for a New London, Connecticut, shipbuilding company. He left that position after a short time to become a salesman for the Package Machinery Co. of West Springfield. He rose quickly within the company's ranks, becoming president in just eight years. During the Great Depression, Putnam used his personal wealth to develop new machinery—keeping employment high. He also instituted profit sharing, gave his employees life insurance and instituted a bonus plan. Putnam was named chairman of the board at Package Machinery in 1942, where he remained until 1948.

Through his uncle, Percival Lowell, and his own father, Roger Putnam gained a love of astronomy and was an amateur astronomer for most of his life.

Percival Lowell had predicted the existence of a "Planet X"—a possible ninth planet—in 1905, but his subsequent death in 1916 and Constance Lowell's lawsuit had largely mothballed the search for the celestial body. Putnam, however, was determined to find "Planet X." Spending several months a year at the Lowell Observatory, Putnam resolved to build a new 13-inch (330 mm) refracting telescope and astrograph at the Observatory to revive the search. The reluctant staff hesitated to spend the Observatory's limited funds on the new telescope until Putnam forced the issue. To fund construction, Putnam persuaded his uncle, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, to provide $10,000 for the new telescope. To save money, Putnam ordered the mounting to be built on-site in the observatory workshop rather than by a contractor. Observatory Director V.M. Slipher designed the telescope. When one of the lens components was ground too thin, a new component had to be built. Putnam paid the $6,000 replacement cost out of his own funds.

As Putnam searched for a new director, he almost put the Lowell Observatory under the control of Harvard University. Donald Menzel, director of the Harvard Observatory, offered to move Harvard's 61-inch (1.5 m) telescope to the Lowell Observatory in exchange for naming the next director. Putnam was initially receptive to the idea, but after consulting with several young astronomers (most notably Harold Johnson), Putnam decided against a collaboration with Harvard.

Determined to continue the modernization program begun by Wilson, Putnam hired astronomer John Scoville Hall as director in 1958. Hall took advantage of the launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957 and the ensuing Sputnik crisis in the United States to seek greatly increased federal funding for the Observatory. Putnam used his extensive political connections to help Hall land lucrative federal contracts, which significantly improved the Observatory's finances. Hall also hired energetic, bright young astronomers and rebuilt the Observatory's reputation as a research institution.

Putnam also played a major role in securing a new 42-inch (1,100 mm) telescope for the Observatory in 1961. Ohio Wesleyan University's Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio, had a 42-inch (1,100 mm) cassegrain reflector telescope which was under-utilized due to poor viewing conditions and low elevation. Putnam led the negotiations which permanently moved the 42-inch (1,100 mm) telescope to Lowell Observatory's Anderson Mesa site (in Arizona). The telescope was operated by Lowell Observatory in partnership with the Ohio State University and Ohio Wesleyan, and purchased by Lowell in 1998.

One of Putnam's last major contributions as trustee was the establishment of the Lowell Observatory's Planetary Research Center. In 1961, Putnam convinced NASA officials to fund a major planetary research initiative at the Lowell Observatory. In 1965, NASA agreed to build the Planetary Research Center at Lowell to house the rapidly growing project.

Roger Putnam retired as trustee of the Lowell Observatory in 1967. His youngest son, the classicist Dr. Michael C. J. Putnam, succeeded him.

Putnam became increasingly active in politics through his business ventures. In 1933, he sat on a commission which helped draft Massachusetts' first unemployment compensation act, which Governor Joseph B. Ely signed into law in 1934. Putnam was elected mayor of Springfield three times—in 1937, 1939, and 1941. He ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1946, but lost the Democratic nomination to Paul A. Dever.

President Franklin Roosevelt appointed Putnam to be deputy director of the Office of Contract Settlement of 1944. Established by the Contract Settlement Act and part of the Office of War Mobilization, Putnam helped settle claims arising from terminated war contracts during World War II. Putnam served in that capacity until the office was abolished by Executive Order 9809 on December 12, 1946.

Congress stripped the WSB of its labor dispute adjudication powers in the wake of the steel seizure crisis. Putnam struggled to keep union representatives on the new board, and to find industry representatives willing to serve. He succeeded in fully staffing the Board, but the wage stabilization program continued to disintegrate.

A revolving door at the top of the ESA and its key agencies worsened the situation. Nathan Feinsinger, the chairman of the WSB, resigned in July 1952. Putnam appointed Archibald Cox as his replacement in August. Ellis Arnall resigned in early August, and Putnam appointed Tighe Woods, chairman of the federal rent stabilization agency, as his successor.

After leaving federal service, Putnam returned to his position as chairman of Package Machinery. In 1953, Putnam became president of WWLP, Springfield's first television station. WRLP-TV, WWLP's sister station, took its call letters from Putnam's name. Late in life, Putnam also served on the board of the Third National Bank of Hampden County and the board of the Van Norman Machine Tool Company (now part of the Kwik-Way corporation).

Putnam believed higher education was the key to social uplift and the country's economic problems. Beginning in 1958, he served on the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges. In 1966, he served on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. Putnam also received honorary degrees from Boston College (1949), Saint Anselm College (1952), and the University of Massachusetts Lowell (1970).

Putnam died of a stroke at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts on November 24, 1972, aged 78.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Putnam

Roger Lowell Putnam (December 19, 1893 - November 24, 1972) was an American politician and businessman. A member of the prominent Lowell family of Boston, he served as Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, from 1937 until 1943, and as director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 until 1952. During his short tenure in federal office, the nation's steelworkers struck—leading President Harry S. Truman to seize the nation's steel mills.

For 40 years, Putnam was also the sole trustee of the Lowell Observatory. During that time, he purchased three new telescopes for the observatory and was instrumental in pushing Lowell astronomers to search for Percival Lowell's theoretical "Planet X"—which led to the discovery of Pluto in 1930.

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Roger Lowell Putnam's Timeline

1893
December 19, 1893
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States
1924
October 25, 1924
1972
November 24, 1972
Age 78
Springfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts, United States
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